LOS ANGELES — A man who was naked except for shorts and one sock climbed to the top of a soaring church tower in East Los Angeles Wednesday night, set a fire at the base of a cross, then apparently tried to evade surrounding police by leaping from roof to roof of nearby buildings before he was taken into custody.

It was unclear what prompted the man to climb up scaffolding at St. Mary’s, a Roman Catholic church in Boyle Heights.

A witness told KCBS-TV that the man threw his clothes off the top of the church.

News helicopters showed the man as he climbed up scaffolding to the top of the bell tower, which is more than 130 feet tall, and apparently tried to push over the cross at its apex before setting a fire at its base. The fire did not to spread.

The man later climbed onto the main roof of the church, made a leap to a nearby roof, and then continued to jump to other buildings. At one point he clung upside down to an electrical cable with his hands and feet and later used a utility or communication cable to scale the side of a building onto the roof.

Police surrounded the area and tracked the man for more than an hour. He made his way into a building and finally was taken into custody outside a residential building sometime after 10 p.m., KTLA-TV reported.